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EXTREME MAKEOVER: Project manager vital to pulling off fast build

Four Diet Cokes a night, a near-sacred hour-by-hour schedule and an unflappable disposition - that's what it takes to pull off a week of 16-hour overnight shifts on an "Extreme Makeover" build.

Scott Lawrence, right, and Brian Hanson
Project manager for "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" Scott Lawrence, right, jokes around with Brian Hanson, project manager with Heritage Homes, on Wednesday morning at the build site in Moorhead. Carrie Snyder / The Forum

Four Diet Cokes a night, a near-sacred hour-by-hour schedule and an unflappable disposition - that's what it takes to pull off a week of 16-hour overnight shifts on an "Extreme Makeover" build.

Fargo's Brian Hanson has it all down pat. A soft-spoken father of four, the Heritage Homes project manager is a "Makeover" veteran on his third such build. On old episodes of the hit ABC show, he can be seen walking in on host Ty Pennington amid a kitchen cabinet spiel in New Orleans. He can be spotted behind Heritage owners Daryl Braham and Tyrone Leslie as they rally their team in Minot, N.D.

On this week's Moorhead "Makeover" construction, Hanson is an important, low-key presence. He's one of six project managers in charge of squeezing a monthlong process into fewer than five days. His shift is 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., but he arrives at 6 p.m. to "melt in" and lingers till 11 a.m.

"My biggest problem is I like to see it all happen," says Hanson, who pulled a 24-hour stretch once on the Minot project.

It's Wednesday morning on the south Moorhead site, roughly 14 hours after Hanson showed up for work. Late Tuesday morning, he left unfinished foundations as he dashed home to catch a few hours of sleep. Now, there's a two-story structure.


Folks who want to talk with Hanson poke out of windows and scurry out of doors. Meanwhile, voices of teammates on the opposite end of the house buzz in Hanson's earpiece.

"It never stops," says Hanson, preternaturally chipper on so little sleep.

In his hand is a clipboard with the hour-by-hour construction schedule.

"It's really aggressive, but it's a good schedule," he says.

Hanson's team just finished framing the second floor two hours early.

Hanson says the lessons of Minot in 2006 and New Orleans in 2008 have come in handy.

In Minot, the framing team lost steam overnight, and Hanson directed builders to take a rest rather than trudge through exhaustion: "You could tell nobody was home. They had that glazed look."

In Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans, recalls Braham, "Makeover" had a hard time lining up subcontractors such as plumbers and electricians. Volunteer workers did not always show, and Hanson made sure the Fargo crew picked up the slack.


"It seems the more pressure Brian gets under, the calmer he becomes and more of a leader," said Braham.

The Moorhead project, with its speeded-up timeline, is high pressure by default. Typically, half a dozen workers will work on a home at any one time. Some 30 workers swarmed the "Makeover" site Wednesday morning.

It's all about advance prep. The team installs pre-built foundation walls instead of pouring concrete. Instead of constructing the frame on site, it assembles pre-fab panels made two weeks ago, says framer Curt Kellen.

Scott Lawrence of La Verne, Calif., a "Makeover" project manager in his third season, says by Day 3, builds are usually behind schedule.

"This guy is a rock star," he says of Hanson. "He's very organized, very positive - that's what the night shift is all about."

Hanson's wife, Jodi, also volunteers at the site, as food coordinator in the catering tent, where she works from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Hanson's mom came from Scranton, N.D., to care for the children and shuttle them to sports practices.

"They know their dad is doing something important," says Jodi. "Building homes is his passion. It's just the job he loves."

And when it comes to the go-go schedule, says Braham, "It energizes him. It ignites the passion in him for what he does for people every day."


Hanson says he looks forward to the Sunday "reveal," when the Bill and Adair Grommesh family will explore their new home at 803 22nd Ave. S. That culmination of the intense build drives his team.

"It's very raw," he says. "You get a little choked up. You get that feeling of changing somebody's life for the better."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529

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